Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged further efforts in ecological conservation during a visit to Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in the country’s south. In Guilin, the second-largest city in Guangxi, Xi took a boat to inspect the ecological condition of the Li River, a popular tourist destination. The river stretches more than 400km (250 miles) through karst hills and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Hailing the river as a “one and only” treasure, Xi said the environment should not be damaged. “The most terrible thing is stone quarrying. We will forever lose this mountain if we damage it,” Xi was quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying. “[We should] hold people accountable for over-mining and stone quarrying and investigate their criminal responsibilities in accordance with the law.” Xi also on Sunday visited a memorial park dedicated to the Battle of the Xiang River, during the Long March in the 1930s, and laid a flower basket as a tribute to those who died. Conservation has been a regular theme of Xi’s inspection tours around the country. During his trip to the southeastern province of Fujian last month, the president said that the local government should make ecological conservation its top target, and integrate environmental protection, green development and improving livelihoods. Xi also reiterated a green model of growth during his stop in Fuzhou, the Fujian capital. He had proposed in 2015 that the country’s growth should be innovative, coordinated and green. One year later, when talking with Communist Party officials from 11 provinces along the Yangtze River , Xi ruled out new development projects on the embattled waterway. Authorities along China’s biggest river should “work together for major protection, instead of carrying out major development”, the president had told the officials. China’s economic growth over the past three decades has dramatically depleted the environment and natural resources, with the environmental degradation having been reflected at all levels, according to Zhou Haixiang, a conservationist in the northeastern province of Liaoning. “It is not a problem in one city or one province, but a problem for the whole country or even the globe,” Zhou said. “As the degradation increased, we realised that the environmental problems could not be ignored.” Zhou said that both the government and the country’s citizens should take action to protect the environment, and suggested that the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) – which is expected to be held in Kunming in southwest China in October – would be a good opportunity for the government to proceed with such actions as well as potentially raising public awareness of green issues. The countries taking part in COP15 are expected to reach an agreement on targets to protect biodiversity and ecosystems that are vital to human health. The expected proposals include a pledge to protect at least 30 per cent of the globe’s land and oceans by 2030. “It’s ... about whether the next generation can live on the planet,” Zhou said.